Vacant lot becomes a showcase for art in Atlantic City

When the Sands Casino was dramatically torn down in 2006 — it was imploded, with a fireworks flourish — it left a seven-acre hole along Indiana Avenue in Atlantic City.

Lance Fung is a curator working to fill up the lot with art.

“It has remained vacant — pretty much as an eyesore to all of Atlantic City — since then,” Fung said. “What we have done is create a big green public park within this unique landscape, with three very important artists who conceived site-specific works.”

There are giant, glowing words made out of lightboxes, a bronze figure nestled inside a garden of entirely red native plants, and a pirate ship that appears to have been hauled up from the bottom of the ocean.

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They are all part of Artlantic, a five-year program to bring major pieces of contemporary public art to a town that is trying to change its image. All the pieces are temporary, there by agreement with the owners of the expensive shore properties. Fung plans to introduce at least one new work every year, with eyes on installing something permanently down the road.

Fung, a New York-based artist and curator, said he had not spent much time in South Jersey before being hired by Atlantic City in May to curate the Artlantic installations.

Miraculously, the landscape installations survived Hurricane Sandy, which had wiped out a portion of the Atlantic City boardwalk and flooded much of the city.

“Life is different from when we began,” said Fung. “The hurricane has shifted the meaning and importance of many things, including what one can do for their community, and what everyone’s priorities are. It was with a lot of thought of how to make Artlantic — this five-year series of public spaces — to be even more important.”

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